In May this year, a trial was carried out in Canada. This saw Instagram hiding likes and views from its users’ photos and videos. At the time, we reported that this beta test had some benefits, as well as some drawbacks. As Instagrammers in Canada shared their feelings about the radical change, we provided a few insights into why the Facebook-owned company may have been hesitant in rolling it out to everyone across the globe so quickly.
Two months later Instagram has now moved on to the second phase of their ‘hiding likes’ trial. Users in Italy, Australia, Brazil, Ireland, New Zealand, and Japan will now be affected by the latest update.
Here we’ll take a look at the reactions to this latest controversial move.
Reactions to Instagram Hiding Likes
As was the case when the original beta-test was launched, initial responses have been mixed. Instagram’s rationale for hiding likes is that it will improve the quality of the content posted. There are suggestions that the change will also have a positive impact on people’s mental health – People will be less likely to compare themselves to others. Self-esteem has long been an important concern with regards to social media. Yes, social media has empowered millions of people to express themselves and even earn a living by doing so.
But social media, of course, has its negative side. Users do sometimes experience a boost to their self-confidence when their posts receive lots of positive engagement. The opposite is also true however, for some whose posts are not as engaged as they’d like them to be.
Some Users Welcomed The Change
Irish model Rozanna Purcell supports Instagram hiding likes on this basis. “I get so many messages of young girls in school who say how down they are and feel like they’re not good enough because their peers get more likes than them,” she said. “We have enough things in society to compare ourselves to, so getting rid of numbers can only be a good thing.”
Australian singer Troye Sivan appeared to be overjoyed by the news.
HOLY SHIT INSTAGRAM REMOVED LIKE NUMBERS HALLELUJAH
— troye (@troyesivan) July 18, 2019
He also added: “I’m happy that young people aren’t going to have to base their self-worth/the worth of content they love from a number on a screen.”
Steph Claire Smith, fitness influencer and co-founder of the Keep It Cleaner programme, gave the move an enthusiastic thumbs up. “Wasn’t sure how the whole #nolikes movement was going to go at first, but I am already LOVING IT,” she announced to her 1,400,000 Instagram followers. “Let’s hope we can all go back to caring a whole lot less about what other people think about our posts and just post whatever we want like we use to!”
Others Were More Skeptical
Not everyone was happy with the change, however. Australian chef and author, Adam Liaw criticised the measure.
I think the #instagramlikes thing is a huge mistake. If you can’t see likes you are far less likely to ‘like’ an image. That reduces interaction, which is death for an interactive platform.
— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) July 18, 2019
Jem Wolfie, a former chef turned fitness icon, thinks it will have a disproportionate effect on bigger accounts. With 2,700,000 Instagram followers, the Australian influencer was unhappy about the social media giant hiding likes. “They said they’re doing it to take the competition out of posting – I’m not in competition with anyone on Instagram, I’m here to run a business,” she objected. “They’re taking a tool away that’s really important for us.”
Egle Jakstaite, marketing head for Sau Lee – a fashion brand based in Hong Kong – highlighted the downside Instagram removing likes could have for smaller businesses. ‘It will greatly impact our ability to assess the performance of our content, especially content that we acquire through collaborations with influencers,’ she said. This is a concern echoed by many influencers working with various brands in countries now affected by the change.
A Few Were Caught Somewhere In The Middle
Brook Sabin, a travel reporter in New Zealand who counts more than 12,000 followers on Instagram, was more ambivalent. While he considers the move a positive thing for Instagram and its users, he noted there were also potential negatives. “This is still a popularity contest, it’s just now going to be fought behind the scenes,” he said. “Likes are still a vital part of the game. Companies generally request analytics from an influencer to get an idea of how their posts go – and presumably – these analytics will be updated to include the like count.” He also pointed out that those buying up fake followers would be more difficult to identify. Anyone with a high number of followers but a low number of likes on their posts is treated with caution. However, with Instagram hiding likes, these “fraudulent” accounts will now be much more difficult to spot.
What Does Instagram Hiding Likes Mean for Influencer Marketing?
So what does this mean for influencer marketing? In reality, it will probably be pretty much business as usual for established influencers. As Instagram has pointed out: “This test will not affect measurement tools like Insights or Ads Manager. Businesses will have access to the same engagement metrics and reporting tools as before the test.”
However, as Jamey-Lee Franz – an Australian influencer with over 26,000 followers on the platform – counters, it could make things very difficult for up-and-coming influencers. “It’s going to be really hard for anyone who’s starting their account from zero or from a small following,” he remarked. “For brands, they’re not going to be able to easily see that this person has this many likes and this much engagement. There’ll be no base to work with upcoming influencers.” The future, then, is uncertain for them.
Will this put a stronger reliance on the experts in influencer marketing (such as influencer marketing agencies)? Time will tell.
With no information forthcoming regarding the impact of Instagram hiding likes during the original Canadian trial, how successful the move has been is still somewhat unclear. But for now, at least, it seems Instagram users in these locations will have to get used to living without likes.